NUCLEAR MADNESS: TRUMP’S DANGEROUS BABBLE AND IGNORANCE OF STRATEGIC REALITIES

NUCLEAR MADNESS: TRUMP’S DANGEROUS BABBLE AND IGNORANCE OF STRATEGIC REALITIES

By

Harry C. Blaney III

There seems to be no act by Donald Trump that does not endanger American and global security. We had the undermining of the EU and NATO, the beating up on America’s allies, and the threat to tear up the Iran nuclear and not least the still unknown relationship between Trump and Putin with overtones of selling out to Putin and rewarding him for helping in Trump’s election.  But in the most recent words by Trump in an interview Thursday, he said he thought an arms control treaty with Russia is a “bad deal” and that the United States should build up its nuclear arsenal to be the “top of the pack.” This, is my top pick of dangerous acts by this clearly clueless man on issues of war and nuclear matters.

As every knowledgeable person knows the American nuclear arsenal and capability tops that of any other nation on this earth and has for a long time. Our nuclear weapons can destroy much of the world almost instantaneously. Much of that nuclear capability is deployed in essentially invulnerable American ballistic missile submarines. That is why there is no reason for us to add to them or try to “modernize nukes” them beyond basic maintenance and safekeeping.

Contrary to Trump’s call for added military expenditure just adds to the overwhelming resources and war fighting capability we already have over either Russia or China. Any conflict with them would be as they use to say MAD –mutual assured destruction. That means they should never be used in any circumstance and their existence is purely as deterrence.

American experts and our allies know that a new arms race would not be to the interest of any nation either friend or potential foe. But now both Russia under Putin and Trump seem to not understand the importance to our security of past and present arms control treaties and agreements. The last was the New START treaty between America and Russia which capped the number of nuclear warheads by both nations. And under the Non-proliferation Treaty we and other nuclear nations are bound and promised to work toward elimination of these weapons. The treaty’s aim by this promise is to stop other nations from building their own nuclear weapons. Top leaders, Secretaries of State and Defense, etc. with great experience on nuclear issues, Republicans and Democrats have called for their eventual and timely elimination, known as “going to zero.” A worthy cause but requires all to moderate their own ambitions and work very hard on a true mutual reduction accompanied by other safeguards to ensure security for all nations.

US and Russian escalation of these weapons would undermine greatly the incentive of others to forgo their own weapons. Trump’s words and actions so far have only given other nation reasons to be frightened,  uncertain of our support, or  go alone in developing these weapons. The end being a world of chaos and destruction which Trump for some reason seems to relish.

What is at work in Trump mind or his real goals? Is it an initiative, not of gaining good and fair arms control agreements and seeking confidence building measures bringing security for the world population that make us all safer, or is it Trump’s chaos theory at work of unlimited and high risk blindness to an “arms race” that itself is massively dangerous?
What is needed is less such weapons, better training and practical equipment to ensure American defense, support of our allies, and safety of our people in the world we have today. We need not more money in weapons with no purpose in our time but the near elimination of humanity and global civilization.

Trump in this field has continue his exaggerations and reinforced his habitual lies in claiming the U.S. has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.” There is NO nation on earth that can match America’s modern nuclear force or for that matter conventional war fighting and the safeguarding of our nation. To say otherwise is to deceive out people, waste our needed resources for building back our civilian infrastructure, ensuring our children get the best education in the world, and protecting our environment, not least addressing the massive threat of climate change.

We welcome your comments!! See section below for your comments.

TODAY OBAMA LEARNED THE EXTENT OF RUSSIAN HACKING TO UNDERMINE OUR DEMOCRACY AND LIKELY MONDAY AN UNCLASSIFIED REPORT BY OBAMA. SENATE HEARINGS TODAY

TODAY OBAMA LEARNED THE EXTENT OF RUSSIAN HACKING TO UNDERMINE OUR
DEMOCRACY AND LIKELY MONDAY UNCLASSIFIED REPORT  BY OBAMA WITH SENATE HEARINGS TODAY

By Harry C. Blaney III

Today President Obama was briefed on and received the intelligence community’s CLASSIFIED report of Russia’s hacking of Democratic officials and likely other US hacking activities especially aimed to influence the 2016 presidential elections. It is reported that the unclassified version will be released possibly Monday and Obama will brief our citizens on its content and its import and possibly US actions.

Already on Capital Hill hearings are taking place on this subject with the Republican Senate leadership adamantly opposing a separate investigation and bipartisan committee to look into the issue. In the hearings the intelligence heads today have made clear, on an unclassified basis, that Russia did the hacking and it was aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election outcome and it was ordered by the highest levels of the Russian government.

The witnesses included Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers and Marcel Lettre, undersecretary of defense for intelligence,  testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Russian cyberattacks or hacking during the 2016 election as well addressing the greater cyber threat Russia poses to the U.S.

There was concern about this action by both Republican and Democratic members. Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate, brought up the Watergate scandal and cited the congressional investigation that followed. “It is my hope that this Congress is willing to stand in a bipartisan way…as the Congress did in 1974.” Kaine talked about how he was a victim of fake news during the election and criticized Mr. Trump’s incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has promoted some of those stories.

On the Republican side Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, asked Clapper if there’s a difference between espionage and Russian hacking. Clapper said that espionage “implies passive collection,” but the hacking is “activist.” Sen Graham said. “If we don’t throw rocks, we’re going to make a huge mistake.” “It’s time now not to throw pebbles, but to throw rocks,” ….. “Putin’s up to no good; he’s got to be stopped. Mr. President-elect, when you listen to these people you can be skeptical, but you have to understand they’re the best among us.” When asked later, why we did not retaliate for espionage fully Clapper said “If we’re going to punish each other for acts of espionage, that’s a different policy issue.”

When Clapper talked about Russia’s “multifaceted campaign” against the U.S. He said, for example that RT, funded by the Russian government, was “very, vert active in promoting a particular point of view, disparaging our system, our alleged hypocrisy about human rights, etc.” Further, Clapper added that Russia used RT, social media, fake news. “They exercised all of those capabilities in addition to the hacking. The totality of that effort, not only as DNI, but as a citizen, is a grave concern.”

The exchange in the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing was clear as to who did the hacking and beyond with Director Clapper noting that “Hacking was only part of it,” he added told the panel that “It also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation and fake news.”

The question before both Obama, and now soon, Donald Trump is what will be done about the action or any repeat of such activities? So far Trump and his team seem to throw doubt and disparagement upon the entire Russia hacking effort against the Democrats.

The question that needs to be asked and will be taken up next week by this blog, is what President Obama will say about what needs to be done and the import of these actions for American democracy, and not least, shortly a statement by Trump “after briefing on this issue by our intelligence people, our thoughts whether if Trump is protecting himself or our nation as president!

So far my judgement, contrary to some commentators like in the Washington Post today (“Could Trump be playing Russia?” by the conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt), that it is Trump playing a game on Putin. My bet is the other way around by far, as the evidence shows Trump is ignorant of Russian realities, ignores facts, and seems to put “relations with Putin” and his own ego ahead of national interests and use of smart diplomacy including understanding the U.S. intelligence findings and its consequences.

We welcome your comments!

UKRAINE: AN UNNECESSARY AND DANGEROUS CONFLICT SPIRALS OUT OF CONTROL

President Vladimir Putin
President Vladimir Putin

By Harry C. Blaney III

News reports have Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers coming through the Ukrainian border while NATO  reports that the Russians have unleashed rocket attacks from both inside Russia and Ukraine. Added to this are reports that Russian paratroopers were captured inside Ukrainian territory just at the moment when key talks in Minsk were attended by the presidents of Russia and Ukraine and with representatives of other European countries.

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Drones and A “New Warfare”: Morals, Threats, Practicality, and Costs?

Drones Picture2There is a major on-going debate in America (and perhaps elsewhere) about the legality, morality, and the efficacy of the use of drones in warfare and targeted killings. This has been on-going for years, ever since the knowledge of drone attacks were made public before the Obama administration. After Obama came into office these attacks increased rather than diminished.

In this post I will not address the international legal issues, which needs another examination. But, there are major moral, strategic and practical issues that do need added exploration.

The first question is just why this means of “warfare” was developed and used and whether there are better and less problematic options.

The first assumption must be, in this case, that there is adequate and compelling reasons to take down active and dangerous terrorists and their networks that pose an imminent threat to Americans and our allies. That is the fundamental “rationale” of our policy simply put.

However, we must first acknowledge that the killing of innocent civilians has been a sad historic constant in almost all warfare in history, including our own times. Think of Japan’s brutal invasion and butchery of China in the 1930s, the widespread German killing of Jews and non-combatants in areas they invaded and occupied, the German bombing of London and the allied firebombing of Berlin and Dresden, the American atomic bombing of two cities in Japan and the even more destructive fire bombing of Tokyo. Think of the Serbian mass killing of civilians in Srebrenica, of Bosnian Muslims massacred in July 1995, or today the brutality of the Syrian civil war.

The second reason for the decision to use drones was their ability to observe, from an advantaged and largely unseen point, ground activities. They are also able to attack without putting in danger our own military personnel and are able to deliver a pinpoint destructive force. This is not an inconsiderable advantage over insertion of major “boots on the ground” where civilians would still be at risk or large scale airplane bomber attacks or even the use of long-medium-short range missiles that do not have interactive “sight” of the immediate target.

The other reality is that we are unlikely to abolish drones any more than we have been successful in abolishing nuclear or other WMD weapons. We have used drones, others are using them, and it is more likely they will become ubiquitous over time and will be used against us.  Even more destructive “war weapons” have been and are now in use and few efforts are being made to abolish them.

Reuters’ correspondent David Rohde not long ago wrote about the other side of the equation:

“The Obama administration’s covert drone program is on the wrong side of history. With each strike, Washington presents itself as an opponent of the rule of law, not a supporter. Not surprisingly, a foreign power killing people with no public discussion, or review of who died and why, promotes anger among Pakistanis, Yemenis and many others.” I largely agree with this assessment, but recognize it does not address what alternative better options are available that have less negative impact.

My view is that drones provide so many “advantages” to the using nation, that drones will be an element of warfare as are missiles, planes, and cyber warfare efforts. This is simply a statement of reality not an ethical judgment. But in making policy decisions this reality must be understood and evaluated.

But, we do need to look still at the moral and “efficacy” issues in their specific use and the context in which they are used. To be realistic we need to recognize that the key to this issue is to clearly and publicly define and regulate their use and to ask the question of alternatives and better options and their real efficacy, including “unintended consequences,” which frankly we have already seen in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the moral dimension, the key question is frankly not “taking out terrorists,” no nation can just stand down if there are individuals or groups that aim to do what happened in 9/11 or to attack our troops or civilians. So, the question is when and how and especially can one eliminate or diminish civilian casualties.  One criteria the new “ground rules” contain is whether alternative means are more dangerous to our people or are basically infeasible.

One major problem of the use of drones, and frankly, any kind of kinetic warfare on the ground, is the “blowback,” i.e. the likelihood when civilians are also killed, that there is a creation of further terrorists and the continued cycle of unending conflict such acts engender.

We already have a policy of minimizing civilian casualties built into our existing requirements for determining an attack. They do not always work due to mistakes in intelligence and judgment, which will likely never be fully eliminated. There is a concept called the “fog of war,” which inherently is a fundamental element of most elements of warfare.  But, frankly decisions are also made based on the importance of the “target” and what is termed the rarity of an “opportunity.”

So, what is the key to looking at “drones,” or to be more precise and focused, how do we develop a smart strategy that can both reduce the dangers of terrorism and conflicts and thus the use of drones and indeed other large scale weapons of even greater destruction – a policy of preventive actions, that are pro-active to the undermining causes of conflict and terrorism.

With all of these realities and constraints and military objectives, the key question is what can be done to minimize terrorism, the use of lethal military force, and the societal dysfunction which breeds hatreds, despair, and terrorist motivation?

First, as I have implied, the “drone debate” has been too narrow and our “moral” perspective needs a wider context.  We need to approach the present strategic terrorist threat or indeed conflict syndrome, in a longer range and preemptive approach.

Second, we need new “tools” that are more efficacious and discreet. That also means we need to know more about the causes and realities of those who feel they are most aggrieved and most marginalized. Poverty is clearly one element that the global community has still not seriously addressed. Another is the development of religious or ideological ideology that puts force and indifference to human suffering at the center of its strategy and belief.  One simple fact is mass unemployment and the despair created provides no path towards upward mobility and political participation.  The other element is the existence of authoritarian rule, which does not respond to broad basic citizen needs. The problem is that there is no broad citizen and political “constituency” for this kind of civilian diplomatic “nation building.” It is easier to get funding for drones and largely useless fighter and bomber planes than for educational projects or job creating programs in failing and at-risk nations.

In short, we need a more careful assessment of the use of force generally and unintended consequences, but even more of looking at how to create programs that both support human rights, democratic norms, and not least economic development that reaches deep to those most in need and disaffected elements in at-risk states and regions. Getting there early, understanding the change forcing trends and events, and the perspective of the affected citizens and leaders and then designing effective intervention modalities and recognizing the long term nature of the task at hand.  Also, tools of public diplomacy, peacemaking, strong international intervention in disputes and unrest when needed, and above all a global consensus towards strong humanitarian program capabilities and on the ground intervention when possible.

Drones, in short, are more a result of a dysfunctional and high risk world, they are not the cause. We need to control their use better, but also look beyond.

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!

Cyberspace: The New Battlefield

In the entire world, there is no one more reliant on cyber tech than the United States.  The United States rely on things like SCADA systems (the “Power Grids”) to run our country. But because of this, the United States has more to lose from an offensive cyber attack on our country more than anyone else in the world.

Leon Panetta has discussed this in his speech in New York:

But the even greater danger facing us in cyberspace goes beyond crime and harassment…A cyber-attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11. Such a destructive cyber terrorist attack could paralyze the nation.

Protecting Your Computer is an American Duty

Cyber warfare is a completely difficult battlefield than anyone is used to. In a cyber war, every citizen is involved.  A country can hack its way from the bottom. For instance, it can hack your local computer you’re using now, network to your neighbor’s computer that is networked to a business computer, which is networked to a corporate computer that networks to Washington.  As soon as their “hacking foot” is in the door, the hack can spread anywhere.

What would a Cyber Attack even look like? How bad can it actually be?

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano answered this after the tragic events of Hurricane Sandy.  She stated,

“One of the possible areas of attack, of course, is attacks on our nation’s control systems — the control systems that operate our utilities, our water plants, our pipelines, our financial institutions. If you think that a critical systems attack that takes down a utility even for a few hours is not serious, just look at what is happening now that Mother Nature has taken out those utilities.”

Legality

We’ve spoken about defense, but what about the United States using the cyber field offensively? How does the United States deploy cyber? Who’s going to do it? What are the special rules of engagement in this battlefield?

Unfortunately, nobody knows this yet.  Even in the case where a country cyber attacks a company, the CEO must call the “local” police first.  The local police then send the report up the ladder until someone can figure out what to do. There are few procedures. No outlines. The question that must then be posed is if they do act, how far can the D.O.D. act in the private domestic IT sector? Should this be something for Congress, the media, and the public to debate?

Either way, the ball is rolling. The Department of Defense has an established cyber-security department that provides policy reports and related information concerning cyber-security.

In August, Congressman Lieberman presented a cyber-security bill that would have set security standards for companies that provide “critical infrastructure” like electricity and water. The bill was blocked 52-46.  In September, Lieberman urged President Obama to publish advisory lines for a cyber-security executive order. In November, President Obama did the next best thing. He signed the Cybersecurity Directive. As of now, the directive has been kept secret, but those close to the White House have stated

“[It would] finalize new rules of engagement that would guide commanders when and how the military can go outside government networks to prevent a cyber-attack that could cause significant destruction or casualties.

Most recently, Auburn University officially opened its Cyber and Security Center at the Auburn Regional Airport that is to be led by retired Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess “to lead the university’s cyber initiative.”

So what exactly does the next generation face? This is a question General BB Bell, a retired General who now serves on the Defense Advisory Committee asked to a group at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

He followed it up by stating,

“We have the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. Is it crazy to think that someday we may need to create a Cyber Command branch? I don’t [personally] know, but somebody better start figuring it out.”

How do you feel about the future of Cyber Security? What actions do you believe the United States should take?  Share your thoughts!